White House slams Flake: He is looking for attention

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blasted GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane Flake70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad McSally launches 2020 campaign MORE (Ariz.) on Wednesday, shortly after he criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE during a speech on the Senate floor, with the spokeswoman arguing he's only attacking the president to get "attention."

Flake spoke on the floor Wednesday to criticize the way Trump handles the press, comparing Trump to infamous Soviet Union dictator Josef Stalin.

In response, Sanders chided Flake for his recent trip to Cuba, another communist nation.

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“I found it quite interesting that he is coming out to attack this president considering he is one who was recently defending an actually oppressive regime. He went to Cuba a few weeks ago and served as a mouthpiece for the oppressive Cuban government," Sanders said Wednesday during the White House press briefing.

"He is not criticizing the president because he is against oppression, he is criticizing the president because he has terrible poll numbers and he is, I think, looking for some attention."

Flake faced a difficult path to reelection thanks in no small part to his repeated critiques of the president, and in announcing he would retire at the end of his term criticized Trump for perverting the Republican Party.

"'The enemy of the people' was how the president of the United States called the free press in 2017. ... It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president used words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies," Flake said on the Senate floor earlier in the day.

"When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn't suit him fake news, it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press," he said.

Sanders's comments about Flake's trip to Cuba centered on his visit earlier this year. He traveled to the country in light of the recent revelations that American diplomats in Cuba fell ill with mysterious symptoms.

Flake, who has been supportive of easing travel restrictions on Cuba, told The Associated Press that he doesn't doubt the Cuban government's assertion that the diplomats were not attacked.